Some years ago, while working at my desk in the office of our home, I heard a noise behind me. I turned and saw a robin, flapping her wings repeatedly against the window. She worked for a very long time but finally left. However, for several days she returned to that same window struggling to get through the glass. I tried turning on lights, moving near the window to shoo her away and I even covered the window with newspapers. Whenever I tried something to get her to stop, she would fly away for a few minutes, only to return shortly and repeatedly bounce against the window.
What made her so persistent? I can only guess. There were several trees and bushes in the area of that window so perhaps she saw the reflection of "that perfect branch" on which to build a nest. Perhaps there was something in the room that attracted her. I will never know what was driving her to abuse herself so much, but she was one focused bird! While I did feel sorry for her in her frantic, futile efforts, I also admired her tenacity.
There are times that we, too, need to work hard just like that bird, even when the going is tough, in order to do what God calls us to do. Paul encouraged the church in Corinth to that end. "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" 1 Corinthians 15:58. Notice that the encouragement to work hard, in spite of obstacles, was directed toward those doing the work of the Lord.
In contrast, if our striving is in order to gain more personal possessions; more cars, more money, a better house and we are wearing ourselves out with the effort, then it is a wasted effort. "Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be" Psalm 39:6. "Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain" Psalm 127:1.
When we find ourselves working exhaustingly hard, yet seeming to get no where, we need to evaluate our purpose for the hard labor. Is it heavenly or earthly? We need to seek God's guidance so that we can discern that which is worth fighting for and that which is a waste of our resources. Let's not waste our energy on those things that do not last.
Helen McCormack writes the Reflections column every six weeks. She and her husband, David, are serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Germany.